The Widow’s Secret

The Widow's Secret cover

The Widow’s Secret

A young widow desperate to escape – a past that won’t let her go. A gripping Victorian-era mystery/suspense story set on the high seas.

The year is 1841. Victoria is on the throne, but women are not in control of their own destiny.

Elisabeth Godwin is facing a grim future after the death of her husband. Her brother-in-law is desperate to avoid ruin and determined to remove the threat she poses to him, leaving an escape to the colonies as her only option.

An epic voyage in a crowded sailing ship brings its own challenges, from ferocious storms to social rivalries and single men in want of a wife. But the greatest challenge of all will be figuring out who her enemies are and why they are pursuing her, before it is too late.

Courage and ingenuity alone will not be enough to survive, but who can she trust to help? And who can she trust with her heart?

Reader Reviews

***** A cracking good story! It is written in the same very readable style as the first book in the series. There is plenty of suspense and intrigue but we also get an insight into the lives of 19th century migrants on a sailing ship from Europe to New Zealand. I found it a real page-turner. 

***** Historic fiction is my favourite reading material.  This book did not disappoint. I was instantly transported to another time and place, and as each page was read, drawn more and more into the lives of the characters. The plot is fast paced, but leisurely when needed to give the reader time to process the action.  Rose Pascoe’s gift with words and phrasing stayed with me long after I had finished the book.  In fact, I was sad to say goodbye to the characters and very much appreciated the epilogue, and to know the fate of many I had grown to love.  Thanks Rose.  It is incredible to know this is your first full novel.  Thanks for sharing your gift with the world.

***** Impressive debut novel – I was hooked into it from the first page. Set on an immigrant sailing ship in the 1840s, which provided a unique setting for an historical mystery. Perfect escapism, with a touch of romance, humour and social tension.  

***** An engaging and riveting story, underpinned by solid historical research. Characters and a storyline that draws you in, a really enjoyable read.   

I have just finished reading The Widow’s Secret and I enjoyed it very much.  The characters were well drawn, with plenty of surprises, and the descriptions of the conditions on board those early migrant ships were very convincing – the nautical details, the social divisions, the on board routines, the outbreaks of sickness etc were all very believable.  The descriptions of the changing constellations gave a wonderful sense of distance travelled and time passing. The elements of romance, mystery, drama and intrigue were well handled and I loved the red herrings and the way it built to a very tense climax.  The epilogue was a clever way to finish as it tied up the loose ends, leaving the reader (me) satisfied!


The idea for this novel was sparked by the emigration voyages of my great-grandparents and great-great-grandparents. What courage they must have had to leave Victorian England and Scotland for far-off New Zealand, enduring months of squalid conditions in pursuit of a better future. While the Lady Rosalind and her passengers are entirely fictional, I have tried to make her voyage true to the times, using real diaries and letters written by various early emigrants on sailing ships.

The images show the approximate route of the voyage (as so often on past and present maps, New Zealand is missing), the white cliffs of England (often the last, tearful sight of their home country), a medicine chest from a sailing ship (from Te Papa, our national museum), and Katherine Mansfield house in Wellington (the inspiration for their final home). The last image is a wonderful ‘Montage of sketches depicting life on board an emigrant ship’ (reproduced with permission, Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand Ref: MNZ-0661-1/4-F).

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